Monday, May 23, 2016

The Acrylic Painter by James Van Patten

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The Acrylic Painter
by James Van Patten


ISBN-13: 9780385346115
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Watson-Guptill
Released: June 2, 2015

Source: Review copy from the publisher through Blogging for Books.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Noted artist and School of Visual Arts instructor James Van Patten offers guidance on materials, processes, balance, and composition, and focuses on effectively using color in painting. He shows how acrylics can provide all painters with a vast range of possibilities for producing highly expressive art.

Readers will learn how to use acrylics to create a wide variety of effects--from watercolor-like transparency and the flatness of tempera and gouache, to the buttery quality of oil and collage adhesive and varnish--in everything from non-representational works to painterly realism to photorealism. Includes detailed step-by-step technical demonstrations and inspiring works by the author, his students, and other artists.


My Review:
The Acrylic Painter is a practical guidebook for those interested in painting with acrylics. You'll get the most benefit from his advice if you read this book before buying your supplies. I would have saved money and frustration if I'd had this advice. When I saw this book, I figured if the author could create huge, hyper-realistic landscape paintings using acrylic, he must know what I need to know! Indeed, he does, and he understands the types of things that a beginner with acrylics actually needs to know to enjoy the experience.

He discussed the pros and cons of different brands and types of acrylic paints. He also talked about what colors you need--he suggests starting with just five colors--and described the other supplies you'll need or may want in the future. He explained basic painting information like color theory, looking at the world in a way that helps you to paint what's actually there, and possible styles (abstract to hyper-realistic) and subjects (still life, portraits, landscapes). He also covered painting techniques like underpainting, using photographs and grids, tricks for painting hard edges, blending, glazing, and impasto painting. He ended by describing how to finish the painting's surface with protective layers and briefly described matting and framing your work.

There were some suggested exercises and demonstrations. They're practical things like how to blend large areas or create an underpainting. He used his and other people's paintings as illustrations to demonstrate various points from the text. While I'm getting fairly confident at painting in oil and watercolor, this book has definitely helped me understand how to successfully use acrylics.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood

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The Long Weekend
by Adrian Tinniswood


ISBN-13: 9780465048984
Hardcover: 334 pages
Publisher: Basic Books
Released: May 3, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
As WWI drew to a close, change reverberated through the halls of England’s country homes. Historian Adrian Tinniswood introduces us to the tumultuous, scandalous and glamourous history of English country houses during the years between World Wars.

The upper crust struggled to fend off rising taxes and underbred outsiders, property speculators and poultry farmers. As estate taxes and other challenges forced many of these venerable houses onto the market, new sectors of British and American society were seduced by the dream of owning a home in the English countryside. Drawing on thousands of memoirs, letters, and diaries, we learn of legendary families such as the Astors, the Churchills and the Devonshires.


My Review:
The Long Weekend is a look at English country houses during the 1918-1939 period. The focus seemed to be the fate of the country house: who was selling, buying, renovating, redecorating, or building them. The author gave specific details about changes made to certain houses (including royal country houses) and the careers of certain architects or interior decorators. He included some general information about why it was difficult to sell old country houses, why people were selling them, various building or decorating trends, alternative uses found for country houses, and such.

A few chapters covered what a country house party was generally like, the various jobs of the servants, the role that some country houses played in politics, notable fancy dress balls, and various sports done at country houses (with some details about bird hunting). He also talked about Americans who bought English country houses.

I think I would have enjoyed the details about the decorations and changes if there had been more pictures of what the houses looked like before and afterward. As it was, I felt like I had details without the context to make it interesting. I'd also expected this to be more about the activities done at these houses, especially on the weekends. Instead, the book felt like a patchwork of information about country houses. The book was interesting, but I think it'd appeal most to those interested in architecture, interior decoration, and the people who owned these houses.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Morgue by Vincent DiMaio, Ron Franscell

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Morgue
by Vincent DiMaio
& Ron Franscell


ISBN-13: 9781250067142
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Released: May 17, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Dr. Vincent Di Maio and veteran crime writer Ron Franscell guide us behind the morgue doors to tell a fascinating life story through the cases that have made Di Maio famous-from the exhumation of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to the complex issues in the shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Beginning with his street-smart Italian origins in Brooklyn, the book described cased from among his 40 years of work and more than 9,000 autopsies. Suspenseful stories, revealing anecdotes, and macabre insider details from one of the country's most methodical criminal pathologists.


My Review:
Morgue is a collection of true crime stories. This book mainly covered eleven cases that occurred between 1969 and 2012 in Dr. Vincent Di Maio's career. In each case, Dr. Di Maio performed the autopsy or was called in as a consultant, but it's not just about what happens in the morgue. Yet we are talking autopsies, so some details were gory, though clinically described.

The cases were described with vivid details, starting with the lives of the people involved and the events leading up to the murder. We're told how murder was suspected or what was known about the murder, the detective work that solved the crime, and details about the court cases. In some of the cases, the facts were distorted by conspiracy theories or the media due to racial controversy. I appreciated having "just the facts." He didn't claim to know the motives, just what the evidence indicated.

He covered cases that showed different aspects of the autopsy (identifying the person and what killed them) and of his job. The stories were well-written and very interesting. While his frustrations with the system do occasionally leak through, he seemed more interested in the truth (is there reasonable doubt?) than in making people think he can solve every crime. I'd recommend this book to people interested in true crime stories.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Impossible to Ignore by Carmen Simon

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Impossible to Ignore
by Carmen Simon


ISBN-13: 9781259584138
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education
Released: April 22, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
A groundbreaking approach to creating memorable messages that are easy to process, hard to forget, and impossible to ignore―using the latest in brain science. Audiences forget up to 90% of what you communicate. How can your employees and customers decide to act on your message if they only remember a tenth of it? How do you know which tenth they’ll remember? How will you stay on their minds long enough to spark the action you need?

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, Carmen Simon, PhD, reveals how to avoid the hazards of random recall and deliver just the right amount of content. This practical guide is filled with case studies and examples. Whether you’re giving a presentation, conducting a meeting, delivering training, making a sales pitch, or creating a marketing campaign, these field-tested techniques will help you develop content that speaks to people’s hearts, stays in their heads, and influences their decisions.


My Review:
Impossible to Ignore is about how to improve the likelihood that people will take away the message that you're trying to impart, remember it, and act upon it. It's mainly aimed at business situations like meetings, sales interactions, ad campaigns, or seminars, but the basic principles can be applied to other situations. The author provided helpful real life and theoretical examples on how to apply the basic principles.

The author explained discoveries about how we form memories or are motivated to take new actions and then explained how to use this information to affect other people's memories and actions. She talked about what we remember and what we forget, expectations, anticipation, surprise, and novelty. She discussed the differences between getting people to remember the gist of what you said versus what's needed for people to remember exact information. She talked about the amount of information to include and how to inspire others to talk about you.

There's a checklist list at the end so you can make sure you're using these principles and engaging the audience's imagination and senses. Overall, I felt like this book contained useful information.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Mindspan Diet by Preston Estep

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The Mindspan Diet
by Preston Estep


ISBN-13: 9781101886120
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Released: May 3, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
The Mindspan Diet reveals a simple plan to slow cognitive decline based on studies of the diets of the “Mindspan Elite”—those populations that live longest with low levels of dementia. Startling in its revelations about healthy eating for those over the age of forty, it challenges us to rethink our approach to many common staples, including:

• Iron: While iron-fortified foods sound healthy, high iron intake can be toxic, especially for people over forty, and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease.

• Whole grains: Processed grains such as white rice, pasta, and flour are actually staples in the diets of cultures with the best cognitive health.

• Protein: Though it's considered by some to be a miracle macronutrient, high levels of protein are actually hard on the kidneys, promote cancer, and may accelerate the progression of dementia.

Includes more than seventy delicious recipes.


My Review:
The Mindspan Diet is based on the diets of people who live in regions with low dementia rates. The author came up with a personal diet based on these "Mindspan Elite." He doesn't work professionally with dementia or nutrition, but we're basically asked to trust that the diet he came up with includes the foods that are actually responsible for low dementia rates.

His diet requires you to cook or make a lot of your own food. His main point was that most Americans get too much iron in their diet due to iron-fortified foods and from supplements, but the mindspan elite tend to be borderline anemic. His argument was fairly convincing, but not enough that I'd follow his advice to donate blood on a regular basis to keep my iron levels low.

The rest of his advice sometimes didn't flow logically, didn't align with with experts, or left me feeling muddled. For example, he advised lactose-intolerate people to drink milk but lactose digestors to avoid milk. Apparently many people in "Mindspan Elite" areas are lactose intolerant, but I need a study showing that those lactose intolerant people consume milk and this is directly responsible for their lack of dementia. It could simply be something they manage to get away with, like his story of the 100+ year old who smoked.

Also, I was concerned by some of his recommendations. He recommended using olive oil or canola oil. He didn't explain how to avoid food fraud with olive oil, which is a problem with this oil. Canola oil and soy products may be fine in "Mindspan Elite" areas, but almost all canola and soy in the USA are GMOs. There are serious health concerns surrounding GMOs (including cancer), yet his recipes frequently included these foods.

Basically, I needed more proof and a clearer explanation before I'll go against long-standing nutritional advice.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Modern Poisons by Alan Kolok

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Modern Poisons
by Alan Kolok


ISBN-13: 9781610913812
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Island Press
Released: May 5, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Written by a longtime professor of toxicology, this accessible book explains basic principles of toxicology in plain language while illuminating the most important issues in contemporary toxicology. Kolok begins by exploring age-old precepts such as the dose-response relationship and that a chemical’s particular action depends on its inherent chemical nature. He goes on to show exactly how chemicals enter the body and elicit their toxic effect, as well as the body’s methods of defense.

With the fundamentals established, Kolok digs into advances in toxicology, tracing the field’s development from World War II to the present day. The book examines both technical discoveries and their impacts on public policy. Highlights include studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in toiletries and prescriptions, the emerging science on prions, and our growing understanding of epigenetics. Readers learn not only how toxic exposure affects people and wildlife, but about the long-term social and environmental consequences of our chemicals.


My Review:
Modern Poisons explains the basic principles of toxicology for the average person. The tone was generally formal, and the beginning chapters were technical enough that it's helpful if you've taken at least a high school chemistry or biology class. He clearly explained any technical language, and I don't think most people would find the text confusing though you do need to pay attention. I would highly recommend this book to everyone as it's an important topic to understand.

The author began with information on how our body deals with toxins, how things are tested for toxicity, and how things have changed in testing as concerns have grown from determining lethal doses to include adverse affects at lower doses and toxins that aren't broken down. He discussed both natural toxins (like harmful metals and snake venom) and synthetic chemicals. I really liked the information on how our body absorbs chemicals through our skin, lungs, and digestive tract and how our body protects us from toxins. I feel like I can better sort out popular health claims now.

The author also talked about toxins in the air, water, land, and animals and how toxins are broken down (through biotransformation) or aren't (and so accumulate in animals higher up the food chain). He discussed drugs, pesticides, cosmetics, and food additives. He talked about historical issues (like DDT), newer concerns (like prions, persistent organic pollutants, multi-generational impacts, and antibacterial and pesticide resistance), and the social impact and regulation resulting from these concerns.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.


Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Visual Intelligence by Amy E. Herman

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Visual Intelligence
by Amy E. Herman


ISBN-13: 9780544381056
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Released: May 3, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In her celebrated seminar, the Art of Perception, art historian Amy Herman has trained experts from many fields how to perceive and communicate better. By showing people how to look closely at images, she helps them hone their “visual intelligence,” a set of skills we all possess but few of us know how to use properly.

She has spent more than a decade teaching doctors to observe patients instead of their charts, helping police officers separate facts from opinions when investigating a crime, and training professionals from the FBI, the State Department, Fortune 500 companies, and the military to recognize the most pertinent and useful information. This book will show you how to see what matters most to you more clearly than ever before.


My Review:
Visual Intelligence is a course on improving your ability to see important details and clearly communicate your observations to others. The book contains full-color art that you study closely as part of the exercises. These exercises help you see what's really there (versus what you expect), see details that you might normally overlook, and recognize what details are most important depending on your goal. After gathering the information and analyzing it, you learn how to effectively communicate this information to others.

The author teaches a class using this material, so she also described how these skills have worked out in the field for her students (police detectives, doctors, social workers, etc.). I found it easy to understand the author and follow her points. I improved at the skills while reading the book, and you can also practice these skills while doing everyday things. I'd highly recommend this book, especially to those with a job where good observational and communication skills are critical.


If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.